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Nueva Arcadia…Or somewhere around there. February 3, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgrader @ 9:09 pm

Hola amigos! We were assigned our placements for our month-long, solo homestays in Honduras. I will be living on the outskirts of Nueva Arcadia. You can google it, but be aware that almost nothing is to be found. I am in a cluster of four, me, Sagen, Lars, and Stacey, and tomorrow morning at 6 am we head out into the campo to meet and join our families. See you in 28 days!


P.S. Don´t forget that I can receive letters once while in Honduras…get it to Whitworth by February 9th!


Xela, te amo. Honduras, vamos a ver. January 28, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgrader @ 9:09 pm

Well, Guatemala is coming to an end. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that time flies, so I need to start soaking it all in a bit quicker.

So, here´s real Latin American culture. A soccer game. It looked more like a riot to me, but apparently this is how things are done here. On the outside of the stadium there are food venders, jersey venders, all the normal event necessities. With that said, we were expecting the inside of the stadium to remind us of home…Give us a little taste of Seattle: Quest? Safeco? hahahaha what a joke. There are cement bleachers all around the field with no numbered seating. Your basic free-for-all. So we ask around and find out that one section in particular is known for lighting things on fire and yelling profanity (well actually, all of our teachers told us to take a notebook as we would be learning a great deal of new vocabulary at the event), so we sat opposite of them so we could clearly watch the event. The game started with multi-colored fire extinguishers. This was an extremely cultural experience. Probably even more so since all the gringos sat together drawing plenty of attention.

This extremely good looking cow was in the house, (note: house, not backyard) of Thelma and Luis, the weavers we spent Sunday morning with. We spent most of this week thinking about what our homestays in Honduras are going to look like, and we are all very hopeful that it is similar to the house of Thelma and Luis. The conditions weren´t great, but the love and joy within the family and their furry friends was perfect.

This week, Katie and I spent more time than usual with our family, and let me tell you, that allowed for plenty of inappropriate conversations. This family LOVES to discuss co-ed relations. It is hands-down one of the most comical things I have experienced, but also the most uncomfortable. I try not to give them opportunities to pester me, but when I made the mistake of saying “Tengo hombre” instead of “Tengo hambre”, I deserved the next few meal time conversations. On Wednesday, however, we got almost the whole family to come salsa dancing with us at La Parranda, and it was SO fun. We´re doing it again tonight before Katie and I leave! I couldn´t have asked for a better second-first homestay.

On Tuesday night, we played (I watched) a soccer game against a ministry called Interchange that works with kids that live and work on the streets. These kids live on the streets, they know how to play soccer. We were in for a loss the second we agreed to the game. However, vale la pena. We put up a good fight and the kids were excited that we wanted to play despite our obvious handicap. We finished the game with 25 Dominoes pizzas, and lots of stories. These kids have spent most of their lives drugged up, working for a few Quetzales a day, yet have come out of it like champions. They were full of laughter and smiles, more than willing to share their stories with us.

After watching the movie on Monday, some of the teachers wanted to show us some of the glimpes of hope that are offered in Xela. Welcome to Nuevos Horizontes. This is a secret house that is behind giant, black doors on a random street in Xela. It´s a shelter for victims of abuse. There are 37 people living there now. 7 of them are girls between the ages of 13 and 16 that have babies. All of them are hiding from the people that have hurt them. They normally stay for about 3 months, with the hopes that that person has stopped looking for them. The only way to know about this shelter is through word of mouth, which is why they were hesitant to let us in the doors. They only receive funding from donations, and there are only 6 people that are paid to work there. They serve over 400 victims a year, most of which are children that become orphans when they leave the house. It took everything in my power to get me to walk back out onto the street. I wanted so badly to stay and help in whatever way I could. Those children deserve so much love. It was amazing though, because this abuse problem is huge in Xela, yet there is only this one shelter, and most people don´t know about it. It´s hard to see this mission as one of hope when you know that there are so many more people out there without the opportunity to hide. I need to choose to see it as hope. If not, there can never be justice- there has to be justice.

And then there is the end. Last night, the six in the picture went to dinner at a restaurant that overlooked the entire city. It was stunning. It was full of great conversation, all in Spanish of course, and great company. I have learned to appreciate this language so much by being here. It is beautiful and difficult. I love it. Today, we started by going to our favorite Mennonite Bakeshop to get our last fill of delicious sweets, which was then followed by a party with two chocolate cakes, hot chocolate, chocolate colored cookies and bananas, and enchiladas. Of course that wasn´t the end. Obviously it was time to make crepes. All of this took place before lunch, yikes. Edgar (my food baby) definitely paid me a visit, which was fine because I would hate for him to miss out on this experience. We left the school with hugs and blessings. They all told us how ready we are for the rest of the adventure.

Tomorrow we head out. “El Plunge”. At 9 am tomorrow morning, we are meeting in Parque Central with our packs packed, ready to find our way to a little pueblo. We will be split into groups of 4, given a name of the pueblo, and a bit of money. We have two days to get to the pueblo and meet in Antigua. Vamos a ver!!!

Honduras in less than a week….Let´s go!


Rollercoaster Ride. January 25, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgrader @ 8:43 pm

The past few days have been the craziest, emotional mess of my life. Until this point, Xela has felt not a whole lot different than anywhere else. I live in a super nice house, eat delicious food, and spend time with people I love every day. Sunday, things changed.

On Sunday morning we went to Momostenango to watch Themla y Luis (the cutest couple ever) weave. We learned how they create their products from the sheep to the finished item. They have 7 kids, all of whom weave every day, except the baby, Luis, because he is only 2. The other 6 kids go to school for a half a day during the week, then work the other half a day and work 12 hour days on Saturday and Sunday. They work so incredibly willingly and joyfully. They love their history and their work. Luis told us that each kid is allowed to have goals and pursue them, but if it doesn`t work out, they will always have a life waiting for them. They create the most beautiful blankets, bags, scarves, etc. The scarf I bought took 1 month to weave, and they only wanted $20 for it. Something seems unfair.

Monday, we watched a documentary…Reparando. We watched how a community in Guatemala City has been destroyed by poverty and gang abuse. We watched people pick through garbage in hopes of finding enough metal or plastic to buy them dinner. We watched Tita and Shorty love these people incredibly well. They are working with the community to first and foremost fill daily needs, but do so in the name of Christ. I have never been so angry, sad, hopeful, and blessed at the same time. I was crying tears of anger and tears of joy. It is amazing that in the most awful corners of the world, God is still at work. He leaves no one behind.

I left the documentary extremely confused about what I was supposed to do next. I can`t just sit back and continue to let the injustice occur. So that is when the Lord stepped in. As I was thinking about how badly I want to work with people who care enough to make a change, I received an email about an internship for this summer. It is an internship with the Murdock Charitable Trust and all summer long I will be introduced to leaders of non-profits, learning which path I am supposed to take. I think that God wanted me to know that when I go back to my wonderful life at home, I can still have a heart for serving, and I will have an outlet to do so.

To say the least, yesterday was one of the most exhausting days of my life. But, I think it was the beginning of something huge. My life is changing right before my eyes.


Mail time! January 21, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgrader @ 4:33 pm

I can receive letters if you so choose to send them…I think you should.

They have to be at this address by, not a minute later than, 5 pm on:

      Wednesday, February 9

      Monday, February 28

      Tuesday, March 22

      Tuesday, April 12

The address is:

       Kylie Grader

       CASP c/o EstherLouie

       Intercultural Student Center- Hendrick Hall

       Whitworth University

       300 W Hawthorne Rd,

       Spokane, WA 99251

You will notice that if you send one by the first date, I will receive it for my birthday…Isn`t that interesting…


One week… January 18, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgrader @ 12:23 am

“Latin America: impressive wealth and degrading poverty, splendid flowers and dusty broken roads, loving people and cruel torturers, smiling children and soldiers who kill. It is here that we have to hunt for God´s treasure.” – Henri Nouwen

This is my current reality. I have never seen such a beautiful place more full of hurt and despair. This weekend we took a trip to Lago Atitlan, a lake surrounded by 7 volcanoes, where the sun was shining and we were in the best company…yet the streets were lined with beggars and tiny children that only wanted a coca-cola to drink. We couldn´t walk more than a half a block without being asked for money. This is the place  where finding God´s treasure will not only be the most challenging thing, but also the most awe-inspiring.

Anywho, last week, we danced. We learned to salsa. I think it might have been the most fun night I have had in some time. My cheeks hurt in the end from smiling so much. I danced with Gringos and Latinos and let me tell you, both are equally entertaining.

Thursday, half us made chocolate and half worked with a group of impoverished children…Chocolate making was super cool, but the joy of these children was incredible. Lupita and Alexander were my two perfect niños. Alexander was so tiny and was wearing a yellow, winnie-the-pooh sweatsuit and was a little monster. Lupita barely spoke but had the sweetest smile and rarely let go of my hand. I think they stole my heart.

We went to the lake this weekend where I ate a ton of ice cream and pupusas. But before overeating, we stopped at a women´s cooperative that was created by women who lost their husbands in the civil war. There are 28 women now and they all are single by the means of abuse or death. These women spend their days weaving beautiful blankets, bags, scarves, etc. They are working to educate themselves and other women of self-worth and how their value is not lessened by the presence of males. They recently formed a commitee that the men do not approve of because women shouldn´t have a voice. These women are strong. These women are brave. They are risking everything to have a  voice and a life of their own. Seeing people like this makes it hard to believe that the next 24 hours, I ate what I wanted and bought what I wanted. It doesn´t seem right, yet there I was. The lake was amazing. We watched little Mayan children play in the streets and talked to vendors about their lives. Most of the chicas got hair wraps, and everyone ate ice cream.

Before we left, we visited a Mayan town with a Catholic Cathedral where the priest was assassinated by the Guatemalan army during the war. The blood is still on the walls. It never fails to amaze me that the people that went to Latin America to give a glimpse of hope were targeted as “terrorists” or “communists”. Why is it a bad thing to speak for justice and for peace? Why are we supposed to watch the poor be poor and the oppressed be oppressed? We aren´t. I now believe I am here to discover how exactly I am going to change this ideology; how God will use me show this whole world the joy of His Kingdom.

We left the lake and Katie and I moved to a new home, without English speakers. OH MY GOODNESS…I love my new family. Sandra and Sergio are the two funniest adults ever and have such a goofy relationship. They engaged with us so much already and are even working to pronounce my name perfectly. I am satisfied. Bonus: hot water all the time.

Today, we talked about religion in Guatemala and the importance of a relationship with Christ over a specific denomination. It was a controversial and confusing discussion, but it was awesome to see how each group member understands faith and religion. We are about to be stretched so far in our faiths and we are so excited to do so.

This adventure has barely begun, but I already feel like my life has been changed forever. I´m going to have to come back. I won´t be able to keep my feet out of this dust for long.

¡Hasta luego!

(This computer won´t let me put pictures up…Sorry!)


Estoy en Guate! January 10, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgrader @ 11:53 pm

We have now been in Guatemala for almost two full days and I am in love. This city is so beautiful.

The bus ride from Guatemala City to Xela was the longest, windiest thing of my life and almost everyone wanted to vomit…Not my cup of tea. However, at the end of our ride, we were picked up by our families yelling out our names. Katie and I were paired as roommates and we are staying with the same family that she stayed with last year. It is one full house. Maricela is our mom and she is soooo sweet. She is tiny and full of energy. Her husband is super hard to understand but he told me that I speak Spanish well so therefore he is my favorite. Their son Arnoldo is our age and super quiet. Their daugther Rosario is very sweet, but her husband doesn´t say anything…ever. They have two kids, Alejandro who is less than 2 years old and dances to Michael Jackson during every lunch…also he is the cutest thing I have ever seen- I´m thinking about bringing him home with me. Then there is Sara (Sarita) who is 15 days old!!! She is perfect and never cries. We are working up the courage to ask if we can hold her. There are two more daughters but they only live in the house sometimes. Then, there are 3 other students from other schools there. Full house. Plus a stray, fat schnauzer type dog…We don´t touch it.

Yesterday, our host mom let us “sleep in” until 8, and then she fed us mush. Literal mush. With bananas it´s not terrible. We all met in Parque Central to tour the town and eat tacos together. Then, the adventure began. Lars, Bryce, Katie and I headed out of the city on a microbus with a family of Mayans and went to an indigenous town that contained a resort style pool…Super weird to see so much poverty and then a little slice of heaven. The people were super nice though and let us take their pictures and talk to them (talk is a relative word though). We were able to just get by with our Spanish- we are working on improving it. Then, we came back to Xela and went to a rooftop cafe to have chocolate con leche and other beverages of our choosing. From the roof we watched the sunset over Parque Central and the city seemed to come to life- and it was a Sunday. We went home to rest a little and came across our host brother and some friends playing FIFA. Clearly somethings are universal. We chatted with them for some time, a family friend Francis included us in the conversations and then we all needed coffee. We went with these hombres to the cafe that overlooked the entire city at night. Whoa. There are enough lights to make it look like any other city and with the mountains it was so pretty. We had hot chocolate and talked about all kinds of things- mostly their romatic relationships, which was far too entertaining to misunderstand. With our hot chocolate came 5 marshmallows, or my new favorite word: Angelitos. We laugher a ton and we able to practice our Spanish a bunch.

Today, we went to class for the first time. After filling my stomach with more mush con banana, we set out for school. I was super excited to meet my teacher. So of course when they said her name, she wasn´t there. She was sick. And so while everyone else studied, I wondered how my day would be without instruction- it didn´t look good. Thankfully, Kim knew what to do. We called in a back up instructor and I love her. Her name is Maria (I think, I need to ask again :/). She is only a couple years older than me and wants to move to the U.S. to be an aupair and learn more English. She´s great. We are going to the museum tomorrow :).

We had our first lunch with the family today and the whole clan was present. It was really fun and we talked a lot to them about all sorts of things until Alejandro started dancing. Then we had to applaud him and watch him- I chose not to complain, obviously.

Finally, we are ending our day with group acitivites and homework. I love this place. I love these people, both gringo y Guatemalteca. It´s warm. Katie´s face is burnt. I´m drinking a mocha. I would say, I am living the best I can.

Hasta luego!


4 months, 5 countries, 1 backpack… December 30, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgrader @ 8:53 pm

I’m not so sure about this whole blogging thing, but I was encouraged to give it a try. I can’t promise that this will be super interesting, or updated on a regular basis, but I figure it’s a good place to allow everyone to join me on my adventure. I am determined to keep everyone in the loop through this blog. You can read it, comment, ask questions- do as you please! I will try to be very good about debriefing my adventures here!

Starting on January 7th I will be headed to Central America for 4 months with 19 of my new best friends. This program will allow me to gain a better understanding of Latin American culture and why I have been so drawn to that part of the world. Where am I going and what am I doing?

  • Guatemala for 3 weeks. We go to a language school in Xela where we meet with our private Guatemalan tutor for 5 hours every day. We are paired up in homestays and get to experience the real Guatemalan culture through our host families. At the end of these three weeks, we are sent on “El Plunge”. We are split into groups of 4 (ish) and given a name of a city, a few tasks to accomplish, and a little cash– then it’s up to us to get there in one piece!!!!
  • Honduras is next- 4 weeks. We get dropped off at our individual homestays in rural Honduras. We will be experiencing what it will be like to live in poverty and how day-to-day activities differ there. I am very nervous for this portion of the trip. Apparently, Honduran Spanish is quite different from the Spanish that we are taught here…Yikes. I’m not looking forward to all this confusion. AND, we have NO communication with the outside world in these homestays. This will be probably the most challenging thing I will ever do, and I’m so excited to grow from it.
  • Then, Costa Rica- 3 weeks! We start our Costa Rican adventure at Punta Mona- a self-sustaining retreat center. (You can google it; it’s super cool). Then we head for the outskirts of San Jose to Whitworth’s new Costa Rican campus. We will get to zip-line and see the Caribbean beaches. My mom, dad, and sister are all coming to visit me there too! It will be SO nice to see them after 2 and a half months!
  • In Nicaragua- 2 1/2 weeks (I think)- we get to look at religion and politics and how they work side-by-side in Latin America. Because there is no separation of Church and state, the two cannot operate without the other. Also, Nicaragua has a very large Roman Catholic population and a huge Protestant population- the two have the tendency to collide. It will be wild to experience such drastic differences all within one country.
  • Finally, El Salvador- 3 weeks. Here we will be studying economics and politics. El Salvador relies heavily on remittances (money being sent to El Salvador from immigrant workers in the US), and therefore their economy is quite interesting; it’s never been strong. Karla Morgan, our professor for this portion, grew up in El Salvador so not only do we get to understand the country from a natives perspective, we also get to participate in all the exciting aspects of the country! For example, we go waterfall jumping and get to celebrate Holy Week with El Salvadorans. Holy Week is the biggest celebration in El Salvador and it’s one big fiesta for the whole week- Karla will teach us how to do it right! 🙂

We don’t know many specific details about the adventure we are about to embark on, but I don’t think we need them. Simply knowing that this experience will change our lives forever is enough to have me thrilled about it.

So, am I ready? Probably not, but my backpack is packed, my passport is ready, and I’ve said my good-byes.

Adios, see you in Guatemala!!!!!